Westmoreland high school football notebook: Big East coaches praise Penn-Trafford

Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 6:51 PM


Ask coaches from the Class 5A Big East Conference if they’re surprised to see Penn-Trafford in the thick of the conference-title chase and you’ll get the same answer presented a few different ways.

Nope. No way. Of course not.

Penn-Trafford has one of the most respected programs around, a sentiment that is as repetitive and consistent as the team itself.

“John Ruane has built a program that will be in the section and WPIAL conversation every year,” said Don Holl, coach of No. 1 Gateway, which beat Penn-Trafford earlier in the season, 27-7. “They have skilled players who are extremely well-coached. They will be a tough out for whoever they face in the playoffs.”

The Warriors were seemingly hit hard by graduation losses after a run to the WPIAL title game. They lost their leading passer, rusher and receiver (by yards), big-play guys, along with a Division I lineman and a money-from-anywhere kicker.

But here is this year’s surging group, 5-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big East (the first conference team to five victories), the owners of a dominating, five-game winning streak that has seen them outscore teams 219-22.

To some, “P-T” stands for more than the school name.

“Penn-Trafford is a developed program with tradition,” Latrobe coach Jason Marucco said. “I think all of us head coaches expect to see the same improvement throughout the year. Penn-Trafford also played a pretty tough schedule early on, and I am sure learned a lot from those games.”

Penn-Trafford overcame a slow start to down Latrobe last week, 27-7.

The Warriors play two nonconference games in a row — at Trinity and home against Hampton — before the regular-season and conference finale Oct. 26 at home against Franklin Regional.

“Moving forward, anytime you see Penn-Trafford on the schedule whether it is regular season or postseason,” Marucco said, “you recognize it is going to be a physical opponent that will not beat itself.”

Penn-Trafford has actually scored more points through seven games than last year’s team that went on to earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs (262 to 223). A 70-0 win over Albert Gallatin certainly helps.

Voelker out

Greensburg Central Catholic junior Tom Voelker is done for the season with concussion symptoms.

The running back and outside linebacker first suffered head trauma on the first day of training camp.

“I went all out and hit one of the lineman head-to-head at full speed,” Voelker said. “I was excited to get out there. I went too hard.”

He returned to play in Week 3 against Leechburg and the following week against Imani Christian, but said he felt numbness in his legs and left arm after a practice, so he went to the emergency room at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital. Soon after, he said he was “shut down.”

“I probably came back to soon,” he said. “It’s depressing not being able to play, but I am going to help out as much as I can. I’ll bring out water for the guys, whatever the team needs.”

Voelker, who is from Butler, said he still has vision problems and trouble focusing.

“It’s part of the game, I guess,” he said. “I just have to be patient and let my body heal.”

Treatment for Voelker, he said, includes him running on a treadmill while staring at shapes on a wall, which is supposed to help reset his focus.

As far as school work goes, he has someone watching him closely, at least in a couple of classes. His father, Jeff, teaches physics and forensic science at GCC.

Even without Voelker, the likely featured back, GCC has managed a 5-2 record and is in the WPIAL Class A playoff chase in the Eastern Conference.

Senior Brando Ciccarelli has been a viable replacement in the backfield.

Salopek cleared

Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said junior quarterback Jack Salopek is “good to go” for Friday night’s home game against Canon-McMillan.

Salopek was medically cleared of any concussion symptoms after he was hit in the head Friday against Central Catholic.

Salopek said he was knocked unconscious early in the third quarter and, while he walked off under his own power, did not return in that game.

He practiced Wednesday and Thursday.

Salopek, who has a scholarship offer from Pitt, has completed 71 of 134 pass attempts for 1,250 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Knights (3-4, 2-3), who can near clinching a WPIAL Class 6A playoff spot with a win Friday.

TV time

It’s not uncommon to see Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert and quarterback Jared Hartman sitting at a table on the sidelines during games watching a television monitor.

No, they’re not catching up on Netflix. They’re taking advantage of a high-tech, in-game approach to reviewing plays. Humbert said he uses the Hudl Sideline program, which allows just-filmed footage to be reviewed instantly.

So if Hartman makes an errant throw, a receiver runs the wrong route or a fumble is lost, Humbert can quickly spot the culprit.

“Most schools utilize it on iPads, which we have done in the past,” Humbert said. “We connect our iPad to a TV. It makes viewing easier and more people can watch at the same time. It’s a great way to view film.”

Hmbert said he got the idea to use the sideline monitors from Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz.

Tutino one away

Ligonier Valley standout senior receiver Aaron Tutino last week tied the Pennsylvania high school state record for career receiving touchdowns with his 54th. Kevin Gulyas of Allentown Central Catholic had that many from 2008-11.

Tutino might have already broken the record but Ligonier Valley (7-0) had to accept a forfeit win over Saltsburg a few weeks ago. Tutino has 36 catches for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. His 176 career catches would land him eighth all-time.

Gulyas holds the mark for career receiving yards with 4,201. Tutino is fifth with 3,463. Gulyas also has state records for touchdowns (27) and receptions (122) in a season.

As a side note, the WPIAL record for career TD receptions is 41 by South Fayette’s Zach Challingsworth (2009-12).

Vikings at risk

Mt. Pleasant (1-6, 1-4) has lost four straight games and sits in eighth place in the nine-team Class 3A Big East Conference. The Vikings had made the playoffs eight straight times before missing the postseason last year.

With only three conference games left, and the WPIAL only taking the top four teams from each conference to the playoffs, the Vikings’ season could end early again.

Mt. Pleasant has not missed the playoffs two years in a row since 2001 when it did not qualify for four straight seasons.

Shoaf nearing 5,000

Yough senior running back Dustin Shoaf is now within 476 yards of 5,000 for his career. Only three other players from Westmoreland County have reached that milestone: Matt Gavrish of Penn-Trafford (6,512 yards), Max Suter of Greensburg Central Catholic (5,252) and Jason Murray of Belle Vernon (5,046).

Shoaf has 4,524 career yards. The reining WPIAL regular-season rushing champion has the lead again through seven games, but he is only ahead of West Greene’s Ben Jackson by 10 yards. Shoaf has 1,439, Jackson, 1,429.

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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